It was early July – 4 months immediately after Eastern Washington saw its postseason basketball hopes dashed by the coronavirus pandemic and four months right before its following follow – when assistant coach TJ Lipold’s phone unexpectedly buzzed.
The clock examine 8:30 a.m. when Lipold, having fun with offseason leisure at a North Idaho golfing class, observed the identify of his manager, EWU mentor Shantay Legans, flash throughout the monitor, prompting a swift, fairly anxious, reply.
Legans was traveling to household in California, but that was not going to build a pause in the 38-year-old’s pursuit of achieving the NCAA Tournament.
“Legs was seeing movie, and he needed to speak about adjusting our zone and an out-of-bounds perform,” Lipold reported “I’ve seriously hardly ever fulfilled any individual who pays notice to so a lot movie depth.”
If there’s a line involving meticulous preparing and obsession, Legans leapt it.
When No. 14 seed EWU(16-7) faces 3rd-seeded Kansas (20-8) on Saturday in Indianapolis, the Cheney school’s 3rd March Insanity visual appearance will be a fruits of that brand name of passion that has permeated by his players.
Legans, a 5-foot-10 and the moment marginally athletic guard who scrapped his way to a few-year starter for a Cal Bears group that 2 times reached the NCAA Event, is EWU personified.
EWU, a little, low-spending budget faculty that traditionally receives the most out of its plans even with not having the aesthetics of its friends, is Legans.
A relationship of the kindred spirits has led to a few Major Sky Match championship recreation appearances in 3 attempts, a 2020 Significant Sky standard time title, a 60-22 history from convention foes and, the crown jewel of the 4-year operate, a location on college’s basketball’s grandest stage this weekend.
He continue to stews more than the losses.
“It’s about acquiring that chip on your shoulder, receiving the most of what you have,” claimed the animated Legans. “I discovered that my from mom and grandparents.”
Legans, who grew up in Santa Barbara, California, never experienced a partnership with his father.
His mom, the late Susan Legans, did all of the large lifting.
Whilst most of his mates loved center-to-higher-class lifetime, Legans and his mom shared a one-bed room condominium as she labored to continue to keep a roof in excess of their heads, meals on the desk and Jordans on his feet.
“She was each mom and dad, genuinely,” Legans reported about Susan, who died from health issues at age 70 the day before EWU gained a 2020 Massive Sky title. “And I experienced great other brothers.”
Susan desired to keep her rambunctious son occupied when she was at perform, although, and basketball assisted supply that avenue.
The nearby Goleta Boys & Ladies Club in the end served transform it into a lifetime-altering pursuit.
A pint-sized Legans was in 3rd grade when he caught the eye of club director and regional mentor Sal Rodriguez, who made it a issue to aid develop the outside of-his-decades talent.
But as Legans grew self-assured in his adolescence, he grew tricky.
“They kicked him out of the Santa Barbara Boys & Women Club and they kicked him out of the Westside Boys & Ladies Club,” Rodriguez said. “He talked a whole lot of trash and was pretty powerful.”
An AAU participant for Rodriguez, his incessant jawing only magnified.
“It acquired to a issue in which I said I wouldn’t allow for him to come on any extra outings unless his mother arrived with him, and she did,” Rodriguez explained. “I bear in mind 1 participant telling me ‘Coach, these guys are going to defeat the hell out of us (immediately after the recreation) if he doesn’t stop.’”
The absolutely sure-handed lefty would eventually mood substantially of the trash talk for Rodriguez, a person of the most influential men in his life, but not entirely stray from it.
Legans channeled that edge at Dos Pueblos Substantial Faculty, in which he is however viewed as by lots of as the finest issue guard to ever enjoy for the Goleta faculty.
California and a number of other NCAA Division I systems took discover of Legans’ toughness and court savvy. He signed with the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) college in 1999, in which he went on to begin for three several years and savored two NCAA Event appearances.
Loyalty towards yet another existence-transforming determine steered him a different way when Ray Lopes, who also helped mentor Legans at a Boys & Ladies Club, was named head coach at Fresno Point out.
The Mountain West Convention was not practically as deep and gifted as the Pac-10 in the early 2000s and the town of Fresno didn’t provide the facilities of the Bay Space, but Legans continue to mulled a transfer in a time when transferring – particularly just before a senior season – was rarer.
“People informed me it would be silly if you go, but I did not care,” Legans reported. “But my desire was to participate in for him and assist elevate his occupation.”
He redshirted thanks to NCAA transfer procedures and as a fifth-calendar year senior averaged 15 points and 5.6 assists.
Legans played professionally for two several years overseas prior to opting to return household, but he experienced nevertheless to build any marketable capabilities for the workforce.
He took a fast-food items work at Carl’s Jr. right before making the gradual pivot into coaching, joining the workers of Rodriguez at Laguna Blanca Superior University.
Legans was an assistant for two yrs prior to producing the leap to higher education.
“I realized he would be a very good mentor,” Rodriguez explained. “Between his X’s and O’s, the interactions he develops. And you see in college or university with how he recruits.”
As Legans’ status has grown over the decades at EWU and he has blossomed into a person of the top rated younger Division I head coaches in The us, he continue to treats anyone back again dwelling with the exact same respect.
He keeps in contact with Lopes, Rodriguez, previous AAU coach Dave Benezra and several other folks who experienced been seriously associated in Santa Barbara-area’s basketball scene.
Legans also helped elevate 1000’s for a Boys & Ladies Club by speaking at events in several years earlier, Rodriguez stated, and he doesn’t anticipate that connection to wither, no make a difference how much Legans’ job requires him.
“Shantay explained to me ‘Hey, if I make it massive, I am certainly likely to give back again any way I can,’” Rodriguez claimed.
Having his foot in the doorway
If former EWU head coach Kirk Earlywine experienced even a standard spending plan, Legans most likely would hardly ever have established foot in Cheney.
Earlywine was seeking for a 3rd assistant when an keen, 27-calendar year-old Legans with no earlier collegiate higher education experience arrived at out to him in 2009.
On the suggestion of a colleague, although, Earlywine knew he was not in a posture to change a lot of applicants absent.
“We did not have sufficient money to deliver in anybody with much experience, permit by yourself get an interview” claimed Earlywine, an Indianapolis resident who will be in attendance Saturday. “So we brought him on. It was nearly uncomfortable what Legans was obtaining paid out again then, simply because the country was also coming out of a (2008) recession.”
Earlywine didn’t make it straightforward, while.
In their first telephone job interview, Earlywine offered a number of complicated scenarios to Legans to gauge his basketball IQ and to see if they shared identical philosophies.
He handed with flying colours, acknowledged the posture and produced his way to the Inland Northwest.
“There was a likability to him that would be a contrast to me. I was tricky on the men. When you are a head mentor, you glance to people who can complement you,” Earlywine said. “He experienced the age, history as a participant and demeanor that would be excellent with the gamers. But there was also a toughness to him. An edge to him wherever the gamers would not wander all more than him. That’s not any easy stability.”
Legans impressed Earlywine with his on-the-flooring know-how, but he even now experienced substantially to find out about nuances of Division I coaching, a lot it that had small to do with the recreation by itself.
“It was great what (Earlywine) did for me in bringing me on,” Legans said.
But it wasn’t specifically the golden period for EWU basketball, as Earlywine posted a 42-78 document (24-40 Massive Sky) in four seasons right before he was fired in 2011.
When EWU elected to seek the services of a profitable Division III head coach from close by Whitworth, Jim Hayford, Legans was retained.
Legans went on to become the new leader’s main recruiter. In Hayford’s operate from 2011 to 2017, when the Eagles often concluded in the upper tier of the Massive Sky standings and innovative to the NCAA Match in 2015.
The expertise he additional to Hayford’s roster incorporated eventual Massive Sky Meeting Most Valuable Gamers Jake Wiley (2017), Bogdan Bliznyuk (2018) and Mason Peatling (2020) and existing fifth-12 months senior guard and two-time All-Major Sky talent Jacob Davison.
Legans also acquired a quick-time commitment from Jordan Davis, who went on to become the Big Sky MVP in 2019 at Northern Colorado.
Tanner Groves, who emerged from underneath-the-radar Shadle Park Higher School recruit to 2021 Huge Sky Meeting MVP previously this thirty day period, also fully commited to Legans in 2016, the commence of Hayford’s closing season in Cheney.
“Legans was who I was mainly in get hold of with,” Groves reported.
His latest roster doesn’t attribute a solitary transfer, either, in contrast to most Division I educational institutions.
“He and his employees have accomplished an remarkable occupation of assessing gamers,” Earlywine mentioned. “I’m not certain if he experienced a participant who had one more Division I offer. Fellas who no one else needed, observed anything in them, and designed them.”
Legans admittedly did not know where by his career was headed – or what his extensive-expression aims have been – right until his achieved his wife in Cheney, ex-EWU women’s basketball player Tatjana Sparavalo.
Ahead of the few experienced two children and Legans was promoted to head mentor, he credits his wife for serving to arrange his long run.
“She would explain to me to starting crafting things down on paper, to established plans,” Legans said. “That was huge.”
A pleasurable culture
Amongst Legans, Lipold, David Riley and Bobby Saurez, the common of age of EWU’s coaching staff members is 33, one of the youngest in the country.
The Eagles (78 factors per match) engage in a rapidly, free and broad-open brand name of basketball that is reflective of their coaches’ personalities.
Whilst 3-pointers are hoisted at a large clip (548 attempts) and anyone on the bench – from crew managers to graduate assistants – is spirited, the Eagles also adhere to a workman’s tactic.
EWU surrendered an regular of just 55 factors in its three Significant Sky Event games and yielded 80 or far more factors just when in the course of the time.
Gamers are approachable and sport a collective quality place ordinary above 3..
Legans understands that he won’t be in a position to bring in talent to EWU based on facilities, conference prestige and a big admirer base.
So he sells them on advancement, entertaining, loved ones and anything Eagles have been equipped to do a large amount in modern yrs – successful.
Legans’ typical time Large Sky profitable share (.726) ranks fourth all-time.
Outdated enough to have realized a several matters, young enough to fully grasp his players, Legans’ open-doorway policy with his players and assistants fosters a positive society.
“He’s a player’s mentor. He treats us all with such terrific regard,” Groves said. “He doesn’t handle us like he is way earlier mentioned us. It is like we’re a large family. He’s much more of an more mature brother. We usually joke all around.”
Not that his assistants really do not sometimes sense his wrath. He keeps them on their toes.
“I would textual content (my assistants) like 3 a.m., and I would get annoyed when they didn’t respond fast,” Legans mentioned. “But I’ve gotten greater at that.”
Lipold doesn’t head.
“Stuff like that is why we’re so prepared,” Lipold said. “I wasn’t accustomed to something like that just before I acquired in this article.”
Legans, whose identify has appeared on quite a few lists as a possible coaching candidate at greater educational institutions, deflects the praise he has received main up to the NCAA Match.
“I have been doing work with some terrific, unbelievable people in this article,” he explained. “Our fellas function tricky.